Friday, January 8, 2010

Not just another lemon tree

Six years ago when we bought our house in Italy, one of the main ambitions was to become self-sufficient with lemons, and on the first trip to one of the local Garden Centres we bought a two-year old lemon tree. The plant measured less than a metre, but it had three tiny lemon fruits, and I started imagining mouth-watering mountains of lemon curd, lemon pies and salty, preserved lemons.

The tree was planted in fertile soil in the back of the garden and we carried buckets of water down to get it settled, until the local contadini dropped by and announced the project futile.

- You cannot make a lemon tree grow here. Young lemon trees need to be watered regularly, and this is too far away from the tap. It won’t work, they said.

When we returned a couple of months later, they were obviously right, so the by now sorry looking lemon tree was moved closer to the house. Again the contadini turned their thumps down.

- This part of the garden is founded on rocks. There is no soil from which a tree can draw nourishment. Besides it does not like to be moved. You might as well give it up, was their verdict.

After another couple of months the tree had lost most of its leaves and there were signs of vermin and unknown lemon tree diseases. We bought a new slightly bigger tree along with a fortune worth of fertilizer and pesticides recommended by the gardener and planted the lemon just outside the back door, where it is still standing.

But after five years our precious lemon tree is still smaller than an average pre-school boy and the fruits fall off before they reach the size of a euro. But hopefully in twenty years’ time, I will have a basket of home grown lemons every year, and in the meantime I just have to sneak into the neighbours’ garden to ‘borrow’ some fruit. Though it hardly seems fair, their lemon tree carries plenty of fragrant and juicy yellow fruits all year round.

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